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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM overrules supreme court's decision in Banteay Meanchey land dispute

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh last week where he called on Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities to ignore a Supreme Court order. Facebook
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh last week where he called on Banteay Meanchey provincial authorities to ignore a Supreme Court order. Facebook

PM overrules supreme court's decision in Banteay Meanchey land dispute

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent contretemps with the Cambodian court system has seemingly reached its logical apex, with the premier ordering provincial authorities in Banteay Meanchey to disregard a ruling by the Supreme Court.

In the latest case of public intervention in court matters, the prime minister weighed in on a dispute over 4 hectares near National Road 5 in the province’s O’Chrou district during a speech last week.

Hun Sen slammed as “unjust” the 2011 Supreme Court verdict, which unequivocally awarded the plot to claimant Toul Sopheak, 33, and her family over five soldiers and their kin.

The soldiers have continued to live at the site in defiance of the order, which has never been enforced. Most recently on March 16, the provincial court ordered them evicted.

But speaking on March 17, the premier stated that he had told authorities – including the provincial governor and regional military commander – to block the enforcement.

“I had to work to delay the implementation,” he said, characterising the matter as “serious” and “unusual”, and calling on Defence Minister Tea Banh to look into the case.

“The soldiers go to protect the nation, but when they came back, even their homes couldn’t be defended.”

Yesterday, Banteay Meanchey governor Korsum Saroeuth maintained that parsing court orders was not his job. Representatives of the provincial court and Justice Ministry were unreachable.

The premier’s comments, it appears, were in response to a video posted on Facebook by a CPP blogger calling for a retrial.

They also came shortly after he took to Facebook to order the release of two women imprisoned over a land dispute in Kampong Speu.

Hun Sen touts his Facebook page as a way to “solve problems quickly and effectively”, but the government has repeatedly denied the premier’s statements amount to undue judicial influence.

In its 2011 ruling, the Supreme Court dismissed the soldiers’ appeal against their eviction, saying they had no evidence of rightful ownership to trump Sopheak’s family’s documentation.

Yesterday, Sopheak called out Hun Sen for interfering in the legal system.

“I am happy that the prime minister feels for the people and considers that the soldiers are also his people . . . but he should keep the Supreme Court independent,” she said. ADHOC coordinator Sam Chankea agreed that judicial independence had been compromised.

“There is no rule of law in this country; he has intervened in the court, therefore the rule of law is what comes out his mouth,” he said.

However, Khuth Tol, one of the soldiers living on the site, praised the premier for “helping his children” against an “unjust, unethical and unprofessional” court yesterday.

“Without Samdech and the Ministry of Justice’s interference, we would have lost our land and house and had no place to live,” said Tol, who referred to the premier as his “commander-in-chief” and “second parent”.

“We will support Samdech until we die,” he added.

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Don Rennie's picture

Dear Shaun and Dara,

A true democracy will not work when the top leader interferes with the judicial system.

The PM's influence continues to weaken the judicial and legal systems and encourages corruption.

Social media posts from the PM are not a way to “solve problems quickly and effectively” as the PM claims.

Do you think Obama, Putin, Cameron, Merkel, et. al. use a Facebook website to solve serious problems and interfere with their own legal systems? NO WAY. It is childish to think otherwise.

This government does not support democratic ideals and principles.

DR

artokamera's picture

Democracy is the worst system ever invented, we all know by now that it has become the scheme for a small minority to govern the vaster majority against its interests. So there is no big difference between a western democratic system like the EU, a supragovernement where nobody is elected, its employees vote law project dictated by the big companies, then when they are submitted, the members of parliament get approached anf get offered various "gifts" to vote for the right interest, and Cambodia. The only thing is in Cambodia it's on the table for everybody to see. I don't have any position on this Supreme court issue, it could be right or wrong I just think it's ridiculous to compare this with a supposedly better system called democracy in the west, as a model. It's actually quite childish... Lol ! With all repects due to Don Rennie. Sorry for my english I am not a native speaker.

Don Rennie's picture

If democracy was the worst system ever invented, why would American democratic values and ideals be studied, copied, and used around the world by other countries as a model for government?

Your comment shows that you are uneducated and not mature. Democracy is not childish. It has been around for nearly 300 years. That is a long time. Can you say this about any other democratic system? No, you can't.

You don't have a position on the Supreme Court issue. So, get educated about democracy and put up a photo next to your name. Then maybe you won't look so childish hiding in the dark.

DR

fabianonero's picture

But pls, to start with, take Putin out of the list. Secundo: examples of equally cynical and better resourced populism than that of Mr HS abound in today's world - ASEAN and Asia at large hardly have anything better to show, which surely makes him feel good. And democracy (really meaning what today ? Trunpism ?) is in trouble all over the Rich West, which equally encourages Asian rulers. The real global cancer is the competition between nations and individuals to grab their share of mythical GDP growth at the expense of all the rest: people, nature, justice, civilisation. However determinant for his country, Mr HS is just a small fish, if a gleefully complying one, in this pool of sharks.

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